Monday, May 3, 2010
Charley loves riding the school bus because he loves his bus driver. (That's Crystal on the right, and Amy on the left - he likes Amy too). As far as he’s concerned, Crystal (Crystalt) as he calls her, belongs to him. She is to pay attention to him. She is to bring him a beer for the ride home (it’s really a root beer but he calls it a beer because he thinks it makes him look cool). So, Crystal being the good natured person she is, brings him his “beer” and brings him back up the mountain. There are those days, however, when things come up and she is unable to pick him up or bring him home. Charley just hates that. One of those days was today.
We received one of those letters in the mail from the Social Security office. I don’t know about the rest of the families with special needs kids, but whenever we get one of those letters it is a heart stopping moment.
“What do you think they want?” one of us says.
“I don’t know, but we better call right away,” says the other.
So we do a stampede to the phone and dial the number five hundred thousand times only to get a recording that says if we’ll leave our name and number someone will get back with us which we know is a big fat lie because no one ever calls us back, and the only way to find out what they want is to go directly to the office with the letter in hand and wait for what seems like forever to be seen by an interviewer.
And we do this because when you are summoned to the office you had better show your face because they state clearly in the letter that if you let the “appointment” date pass you by they will stop the SSI check, which is the kiss of death because the last thing you want is for your child not to have some form of income should anything happen to you.
So, once a year we turn ourselves in. We haven’t had to do that in a long time because we haven’t received SSI for Charley since we lived in New York and that was only for a 5 month period until I found part time work. We paid consequences for signing up for SSI back then because they sent us a nasty letter stating that they had “overpaid” us and that we owed them several thousands of dollars, so we didn’t want to get involved with that organization again. Still, you do what you have to do.
That was 15 years ago. Now that our son is an adult we thought we had better sign him up again so he can have some independence and let's face it, the five dollars he was earning monthly at the sheltered workshop might buy him one chicken nuggets meal, french fries, and a Doctor Pepper (with no ice of course). It would hardly be enough to sustain him.
So, sign up we did. That was last year, and like clock work we received the recertification letter. This morning we piled into the car and then headed down the mountain. But not before I officially made him mad. He likes to be the last one out of the house because that means he can monitor the door to make sure it doesn’t get locked. Charley doesn’t appreciate a locked door because that means he has to wait for us to get out of the car and unlock it for him when we return home. So this morning, in true Charley fashion, he stood in front of the door, blocking me so I could not get to the lock.
“You first,” he said.
“No, you first,” I said.
"No, YOU go," I said.
“You want the umbrella?” I said and handed it to him. As he opened it and bounded down the stairs I turned around and locked the door. He did not notice, of course, because he was busy playing with the umbrella. I proceeded to follow along behind him, running between the raindrops.
“Where goin’ Daddy Brad?” he said, as he handed the wet umbrella to me and slid across the car seat.
“Put your seatbelt on,” I said.
“Hmmmphhh!” he said.
“Daddy, where goin’?”
Brad said, “We’re going to an appointment.”
"No pointment, no," he said.
To Charley an appointment can mean many things; the doctor, the respite care office, the sheltered workshop coordinator, the school. In his brain this means someone is going to discuss his behavior, take notes about him while he is sitting there, make him take off his shirt, take his blood pressure, poke at his teeth, look in his ears, or something that makes him think he's a bug under a microscope. Come to think of it, the thought of an appointment doesn't sound so good to me either.
“No teef,” he said.
"Don't worry, there will be no teeth involved," I said, and proceeded to tell him it was not a dentist appointment and then explained to him we were going to the Social Security office.
“Why?” he said.
“Because they sent us a letter and we have to go meet with them,” Brad said.
“Those guys no know me,” he said.
“They will know you after you go meet them,” I said.
“Dindow up,” he said. (Meaning, “Roll the window up”).
I had the window cracked because the air in Brad’s car has only two settings – full blast, and off.
So I rolled the window up and we suffocated and drove on.
“Where goin'?” he asked again.
Explaining to him about the Social Security office meant absolutely nothing to him.
“We’re going to see about your money,” I told him.
“Money?” he said. Well that got his attention.
“Yes, for you,” I said.
So in to the Social Service office we went.
Brad went to sign us in, and I took a seat and drank my coffee. Charley sat on the floor. He does that sometimes when he is nervous. He’s afraid people are going to look at him. Of course, if he decides to look at them its perfectly all right. But buddy, they better not look at him.
So he sat on the floor, picking at his fingers.
The lady called his name, and up we went to the counter we went, and answered the questions, then they called us to an office in the back where we answered more questions.
A nice man interviewed us.
“Charley, are you married?” He asked.
“No!!!!!” Charley said, and started laughing.
“Has there been any change in address in the past year?”
“Yes,” he said.
“No,” Brad corrected him.
“Has there been any change in financial status?”
Brad corrected him again.
The questions continued and of course, every time he should have answered yes he said no, and every time he should have answered no he said yes. What a kid.
The interview ended and Brad and I stood up to leave.
Charley stayed in his seat.
“Come on Charley,” Brad said.
“I not leeeeeveeeeng,” he said.
Brad and I looked at him. The man behind the desk looked at us and asked, “Does he think he’s here to get money?” Like sure, can we have some?
I looked at my son. I looked at the man. I looked at my son again. I wasn’t sure but decided there might just be a stand off.
“Thank you for coming in,” said the man.
"I waiting," Charley said.
"Bye now," said the man.
“My money now!” Charley said. (Oh, I get it, he saw that commercial – the one where the guy says, “It’s my money and I want it now.”)
“See you next time,” said the man. Did he really think this was going to work?
“Come on son, stop fooling around,” Brad said.
He crossed his arms as if to say, “Who’s fooling?”
“We come here to fill out applications honey,” I said, “This isn’t a bank.”
"My money," he insisted.
"This office does not give cash," I said.
"Yes I are!" he said, “I not leeeeeeveeeng my money!”
So Brad pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket and slipped to the man behind the desk, who handed us a piece of paper and said, “This is for your review,” and then he handed the dollar bill to Charley and said, “And here is your money sir.”
“Thank you,” Charley said with a big grin on his face and then flapped the dollar bill back and forth in the air.
And then just like that, the interview was over. Charley stood up. “I go now.”
Off we went to deliver him to school, where he could eat what he calls "kiken bones," meaning, bone-in chicken, which is something he really likes but I don't let him have it at home because I'm afraid he'll choke on the bones. As we pulled up to the school he opened the door to hop out, and turned around and let his position be known, "And Daddy, no uppin' me again!" (This means Dad, you are not to pick me up at school because that means you are interloping on my Crystal time).
Now hear this…if you are headed to the Social Security office and think you are going to enter the building empty handed and come out with money, think again. It’s just not going to happen. Just forget it. You just keep dreaming.
Or…you could just borrow Charley.